Choosing mission over music

by Sandra Kimberling

The Pretty Ugly Indie Band members

The three members of The Pretty Ugly Indie Band, brothers Daniel and Joseph Cottam of Doncaster Ward and James Swift of Sheffield 2nd Ward, chose to leave behind their music and a record deal to serve the Lord.

Daniel Cottam with long hair and beard

Elder Daniel Cottam, Italy Rome Mission, said, “So I'm serving as one of the older missionaries in my group. I’m 22 right now, 20 when I started the mission. That is due to a few reasons. Number one, the band of course; I couldn't go leaving them alone and miss out on all the fun. Another reason is that I am extremely shy, so a mission for me wasn't always a guarantee in my mind. I also had very long hair and a beard and didn't want to give them up; they were very much part of who I was and made me feel different and look ‘cool’. But the decision to serve a mission was largely thanks to my family, their wonderful examples and encouragement. Always being in the Church, I suppose I've never had a huge conversion experience. All the lessons at Church, things I'd heard from my parents over the years, my own studies and prayers allowed me to really put my trust in the Lord, put the band on hold, have my hair cut and overcome my social awkwardness. A test of faith, but worth it! The mission experience has been amazing! I have learnt and grown so much and come to a true and firm knowledge of the gospel and my Saviour. So many blessings. If we had stayed as a band putting off the mission, I don't think the band would have been quite so successful. Now we have met so many people who already love the music we have made and are excited for when we get back, a nice side blessing of building up the fan base all over the world!”

Elder Daniel Cottam next to the temple

Elder Joseph Cottam, Spain Madrid Mission, commented, “I've always been fully into music, ever since listening to my iPod touch and my headphones when I was seven years old. At that age I started playing the piano a little bit and the guitar, but I started playing the drums when I was 11 years old and that's when I started ‘rocking’. My brother, Dan and I started to rock the roof off our living room when we started playing the drums and guitar together. We then gathered the band together and played through all our teenage years pretty much every week until we were headlining shows, playing at festivals, winning competitions, and recording music videos. Then the time came when I had to start considering a mission; it was honestly something I had tried to avoid thinking about up to that point. I had a mindset that if we made the band big and rocked the world, we would be the best missionaries in the world. Obviously, God has different ideas to us.

Elder Joseph Cottam

After a lot of prayer and thought, I and my brother decided to start with our mission papers. The reason being that I figured out that God knows what is best for us. He has shown us the path to follow, and we just must follow it without trying to compromise or trying to make our own paths. I also had a trust that God would make sure that everything went okay. He knows what means a lot to us in this life and he will cater for our desires if we always put him first. So that's what I decided to do. Leaving everything behind we worked for was a blow for a while; it was our dream; it was everything we wanted to do but then the quarantine came, and everything stopped. The world was on pause and then I said to myself, 'Wow. God does know best; He knew that if we accepted that record deal and continued, we would have been in a massive pickle.' That was the time when I knew for a fact God was guiding us in this.”

Elder James Swift, England Leeds, Manchester, Scotland/Ireland Service Mission, remarked, “At the time of the first two band members leaving for their missions we had received lots of interest from record labels, managers and agents wanting to get us on their rosters. But the boys knew that it was their time to go and serve, so we turned down all those amazing offers and trusted in the Lord. Leaving my music aspirations behind and leaving university was a difficult decision to make. I won't lie but I was very reluctant, even frustrated by the fact that this was the time I felt so impressed to go and serve. However, I have been blessed already beyond measure. I've been placed in the most perfect mission, with some of the greatest missionaries the Church has to offer. I'm truly grateful for the chance I have had to show my love for the Saviour by making these sacrifices and ultimately devoting myself to his ministry.”

Elder James Swift at the Preston Temple

The faith and example of these young men, who left their music to serve the Lord, is truly inspiring. My husband and I serve as Service Mission Leaders for many wonderful Service Missionaries, like Elder Swift. These missionaries build our faith and love for the Lord daily. They are a joy to serve alongside.

“And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29)